Dear Friends across our Parish
As we have moved from autumn to winter, the sounds that I hear from my vicarage study have changed. Whilst the hum of the passing traffic remains a constant audible companion the sounds
of wind and rain are also making themselves heard, often with ferocity. These are reminders that we rarely experience silence and when we do it can cause us anxiety and concern. However, as the people of God, periods of silence are when we can be most fully in God’s presence, listening for God’s voice and gaining divine wisdom about the world around us.
Thus, I was intrigued to read that in Oxford Diocese, children attending church schools are being encouraged to ‘be silent’ in self contemplation sessions. This programme, known as Space Makers, is reported to be having a positive effect upon pupils and is based upon the Ignatian and Examen spiritual practices. (In a sermon some time ago Heather shared the practice of Examen with us at Marown Church.) It helps children to be calmer and more resilient, more aware of their feelings and behaviour and better able to cope with life generally.
These are qualities we all need as the pandemic continues. There are five practices at the heart of Space Makers: stillness: being still either sitting or lying down, which is an antidote to our busy lives; noticing: really looking at what is around us in detail rather than a quick inattentive glimpse at our surroundings; dwelling: seeing ourselves as part of our surroundings instead of separate from them; mending: giving serious thought to how to repair broken relationships, recognising our own part within that brokenness; and blessing: acknowledging the blessings we have received and how we may be a blessing to others.
These are also practices that we Christians should embody as we live out the Gospel. The Gospels tell how Jesus often left the Disciples and went off to pray by himself. I am sure that they prayed together regularly as well but Jesus needed time alone with God, personal prayer times as well as group worship. This is still the case for us, gathering on Sundays and at other times is important but so are personal prayer times. These include times of silence. Perhaps these periods of silence could be our spiritual discipline this year. Begin with just five minutes per day applying the five practices of Space Makers and see how you get on.
Of course, Christmas is a time of noisy rejoicing, all those angels of the heavenly host glorifying God and announcing our Saviour’s birth, but the Holy family had their quiet moments too. Mary gently rocking the baby Jesus to sleep, the hush as the shepherds looked upon the Christ-child and the solemnity of the Magi kneeling before the King of Kings. May I wish you a joyful, safe and healthy Christmas, filled with all God’s blessings, some quiet, some loud, and pray that you may hear the voice of God speaking to you at this holy time.